Like most Aussies, retirees are experiencing more than a bit of bill shock when they head to the supermarket or fill up their car. It’s not much better when it comes to paying your utility costs or replacing significant household items.
With inflation on the march, bank interest rates remaining low and volatility within investment markets, many retirees are increasingly worried about making ends meet. The near future doesn’t look much better, so it may be sensible to take a few minutes to think about what you can do to boost your income or save a few dollars to bolster your household’s bottom line.
1. Recheck Age Pension eligibility.
If you’re a self-funded retiree who has been ineligible for even a part Age Pension in the past, now is a great time to recheck your financial situation and see if your position has changed.
If your assets or income have gone down due to extra drawdowns or expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic, or poor performance from your investment assets, you may now be able to sneak in under the assets and income test limits and score a small part pension.
2. Check your eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).
If you’re not eligible for any Age Pension payments, you may still qualify for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC), so make sure you apply for this card as soon as you turn 66 and 6 months (Age Pension eligibility age).
The CSHC is a concession card giving you access to bulk-billed doctor visits (this is up to your doctor), cheaper Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications, a larger Medicare refund for out-of-hospital costs and, potentially, cheaper government services. Some estimates suggest the CSHC can save you more than $2,500 a year on your healthcare costs.
A CSHC is only valid for one year, so even if you have been ineligible in the past, you may now be eligible as the income test for the card is reviewed every year on 20 September.
Learn about applying for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
3. Apply for your state Seniors Card.
Everyone who is aged 60 and over should apply for their state government’s Seniors Card. These cards give you access to valuable concessions on transport costs and discounts from participating businesses for a wide range of goods and services, which can help stretch your retirement dollars further.
State Seniors Cards are not means-tested, so every retiree should have one, as they provide generous public transport and government concessions, plus discounts for holidays, travel, automotive services, household needs and professional services.
4. Check you are receiving all your government entitlements.
For retirees receiving even a small part Age Pension, ensure you are getting all the government benefits you are entitled to receive.
A Pensioner Concession Card is the key to getting cheaper vehicle registration; rent assistance; rebates on your electricity, water and gas bills; help with energy costs if you need essential medical equipment; access to free Rapid Antigen Tests; cheaper local council rates and even less expensive spectacles. It’s also the key to eligibility for one-off special cash payments from the federal government, such as those made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
State governments also provide concession cardholders with benefits. For example, Queensland offers annual electricity and gas rebates, plus discounted motor vehicle and boat registration fees.
5. Register for the Medicare Safety Net.
Whether you are single or part of a couple, ensure you are registered for the Medicare Safety Net to help lower your medical costs for out-of-hospital medical services like seeing a doctor or specialist, and for tests like CT scans and blood tests. Once you spend over a certain amount in a calendar year, you receive a higher amount back from Medicare.
If you register as a family or couple for the Medicare Safety Net, Services Australia automatically keeps a tally of the out-of-pocket and gap amounts for your healthcare expenses, so your costs will be combined, and you could reach the threshold for higher payments more quickly.
Seniors holding a Pensioner Concession Card or CSHC can access the Extended Medicare Safety Net for Concessional and Family Tax Benefit Part A recipients. For more information, see the Services Australia’s website.
6. Investigate the Home Equity Access Scheme.
For homeowners, if money is getting tight, it could be worth investigating the government’s Home Equity Access Scheme (formerly the Pension Loan Scheme). This scheme can be a great way to top up your retirement income, even if you’re a self-funded retiree.
The HEAS is a reverse mortgage-style product that gives you access to extra income by borrowing against the equity you have built up in your home. If your assets are preventing you from receiving an Age Pension, the HEAS could provide a useful top-up for your retirement income.
7. Review your health insurance cover.
Many people forget to regularly review their private health insurance coverage as they age. Health insurers are constantly tweaking their policies and launching new ones, so ensure there isn’t a cheaper, more suitable policy available from your current health insurer.
A quick way to compare the private health insurance products currently available is to use the government’s online health insurance comparison tool. It allows you to compare policies based on who is covered, where you live and the type of cover you want. You can also select specific hospital services and treatments to provide a more tailored result.
Reach out to the Alman Partners team, if you wish to discuss any of these ‘tips to stretch your retirement dollars.’
Jason Kirk (CFP® Professional, SMSF Specialist Adviser, GradDip. App.Fin&Inv, B.Econ) is a representative of Alman Partners Pty Ltd, Australian Financial Services Licence No: 222107.
Note: This material is provided for GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY. No account has been taken of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person or entity. Accordingly, to the extent that this material may constitute general financial product advice, investors should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This is not an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities or other financial products, nor a solicitation for deposits or other business, whether directly or indirectly.